Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs: The Blood of Yingzhou District (45/365)

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I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

The Blood of Yingzhou District is a depressing documentary about the impacts of AIDS in rural China. Ruby Yang’s 2006 documentary focuses mostly on how the disease affects children. According to a title, about 75,000 children have been orphaned by it, and some children live with it as well.

Yang focuses on five children in particular: Gao Jun, the three Huang Children, and Nan Nan. Gao Jun and Nan Nan both have AIDS, while the Huang children lost their father to AIDS. All of these children are shunned by the community and even their families. Withdrawn and mute, Gao Jun lives separate from his family and plays with no other children. Nan Nan is more lucky in that she has family and others who support her, but her disease is kept secret. The Huang children experience taunting at school, and other children avoid them for fear of getting the disease themselves.

The rate of AIDS runs as high as 10 percent in parts of rural China. One interviewee explains that people got it through donating their blood. The donations from 50 people are pooled together, the plasma is extracted, and then the blood is returned to the donors. The practice allows people to donate again more quickly. But if one donor is infected, then all the others become infected.

The documentary follows these five children for a year, but of them, Gao Jun sees the most dramatic turnaround and downfall. His family decides to place him in foster care with a couple who have the disease, and within a few short months the once-withdrawn boy is playing, laughing, and talking. But then he gets sick and requires medication, and he ends up in a new foster care situation.

Social services appear occasionally throughout the documentary short in evaluating the children, placing them in care, and distributing information, but the greater emphasis lies on the children. Titles offer background information, and two voices ask questions off-camera but remain unseen or identified. While you might hope for a happier outcome, The Blood of Yingzhou District offers no sugar-coating about the bleakness of these children’s plights.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.